Irresistible Grace an Introduction: What is irresistible grace? By Jack Kettler
Irresistible grace is defined as; the Holy Spirit effectively bringing salvation to every sinner that God calls to salvation in Christ through the preaching of the gospel. 1. The Holy Spirit inescapably applies salvation to every sinner that God has elected to save. 2. It is the Holy Spirit effectively brings those to whom God has chosen, to believe in Christ. 3. This teaching of irresistible grace is described as, “Effectual Calling” or as “Efficacious Grace” by theologians. In short, the doctrine says that God's will is in the end, irresistible. This is because God is the Sovereign ruler over all creation including man. The Scriptures declare God's Sovereignty emphatically.
The doctrine of irresistible grace does not mean that everything the Holy Spirit does cannot be opposed or resisted. Men do fight against and resist God. However, even this resistance, falls within God's secret or hidden will. The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law, (Deuteronomy 29:29). The doctrine does mean that the Holy Spirit can overcome all unwillingness and opposition, thus making His grace, irresistible.
The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is Sovereign and can overcome all resistance to His will as the Scriptures declare:
“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35) “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3)
To further clarify, in Reformed theology there is what is known as a general or outward call to salvation. This call is made to everyone who hears the gospel indiscriminately. The Holy Spirit provides to God's elect a special inward or irresistible call that inescapably brings them to salvation. The external or outward call of the gospel is made to everyone, and can be, and is oftentimes rejected. The internal call is made only to the elect and cannot be rejected because it is efficacious and in accordance with the Sovereign will of God.
The Westminster Confession of Faith in a similar fashion makes the distinction between the “visible” and “invisible” church. The “visible” church is made up of the true elect and others who unite with the church for reasons other than true conversion. Reasons for non-believers doing this maybe things such as; respect in the community, social standing, human works for salvation and a host of other humanistic motivations. The “invisible” church is made up of the elect who responded to the inward call of the gospel made efficacious by the Holy Spirit.
Consider the following Scriptural passages in which we see God's irresistible will:
And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her. Genesis 20:6 (Underlining emphasis mine)
“And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.” (Genesis 35:5)
“This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee.” (Deuteronomy 2:25)
“And the LORD thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with thy soul, that thou mayest live.” (Deuteronomy 30:6)
“And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.” (Judges 14:1-4)
“Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying ... Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.” (Ezra 1:1, 5)
“The LORD bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought: he maketh the devices of the people of none effect.” (Psalm 33:10)
“Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.” (Psalm 65:4)
“That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.” (Isaiah 44:28)
“A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgements, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:26, 27)
“And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God.” (Haggai 1:14)
“For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” (John 5:21)
As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. (John 17:2)
“And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” (Acts 13:48)
“And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16:14)
“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Corinthians 15:10)
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 18)
“For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles.” (Galatians 2:8)
“And You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.... Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together in heavenly with Christ, (by grace ye are saved).” (Ephesians 2:1, 5)
“For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13)
“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.” (James 4:15)
After reading these Scriptures, you will have noticed by the underlining emphasis that the words and phrases in these passages such as “circumcise” “give” “put” “opened her heart” “gives life” “ordained” “believed” “he made alive” “all this is from God” and “you hath He quickened.” These verses teach that God's action or his grace is the responsible agent for our conversion and that God's will is always accomplished, thus, His grace is irresistible.
As we saw from the passage from Ezekiel, he taught that we had hearts of stone before our conversion. In addition, the apostle Paul teaches that we were slaves in bondage to sin. Dead people are incapable of responding to anyone. Because of sinner's conversions, we must conclude that God's actions for us are irresistible and effective. Because God's grace is effective, people are saved. God works irresistibly and sinners are converted to the inward call by the outward preaching of the gospel. This is the plain teaching of the above scriptures.
In contrast, humanism holds the concept of performing works to obtain grace. Grace is not “grace” within a system such as this. This is not unmerited favor, it is works. Grace is God's unmerited favor. Because fallen man thinks he is doing something meritorious or not doing anything at all by his choice, grace in this system is mistakenly thought to be resistible. If a man has to add something, then it follows that man also add nothing, leading to the erroneous idea that he can resist the Sovereign will of God. Grace in humanistic schemes does not transform or change the sinner. It is not effective grace, nor is it Biblical grace.
To repeat two passages again in closing:
The doctrine of irresistible grace means that God is Sovereign and can overcome all resistance to His will as the Scriptures declare:
“And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, “What doest thou?” (Daniel 4:35) “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.” (Psalm 115:3)
God is not limited in His work of applying salvation by man's will, nor is He dependent upon man's cooperation for success. The Spirit graciously causes the elect sinner to cooperate, to believe, to repent, to come freely and willingly to Christ. God's grace, therefore, is invincible; it never fails to result in the salvation of those to whom it is extended. This is the essence of the doctrine of irresistible grace or the efficacious call of the gospel.
It is a spiritual impossibility for a person to come to Christ aside from the Father’s calling. Said another way, it is a spiritual impossible for the person is given by the Father, to His Son, not to come.
For those desiring a more in depth research, study through the following material from the Westminster Confession of faith.
Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter III of God's Eternal Decree:
I. God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass;  yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,  nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established. 
II. Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions;  yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions. 
III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels  are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death. 
IV. These angels and men, thus predestinated, and foreordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed, and their number so certain and definite, that it cannot be either increased or diminished. 
V. Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, has chosen, in Christ, unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith, or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace.
VI. As God has appointed the elect unto glory, so has He, by the eternal and most free purpose of His will, foreordained all the means thereunto. Wherefore, they who are elected, being fallen in Adam, are redeemed by Christ, are effectually called unto faith in Christ by His Spirit working in due season, are justified, adopted, sanctified, and kept by His power, through faith, unto salvation. Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only.
VII. The rest of mankind God was pleased, according to the unsearchable counsel of His own will, whereby He extends or withholds mercy, as He pleases, for the glory of His sovereign power over His creatures, to pass by; and to ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praised of His glorious justice.
VIII. The doctrine of this high mystery of predestination is to be handled with special prudence and care, that men, attending the will of God revealed in His Word, and yielding obedience thereunto, may, from the certainty of their effectual vocation, be assured of their eternal election. So shall this doctrine afford matter of praise, reverence, and admiration of God; and of humility, diligence, and abundant consolation to all that sincerely obey the Gospel.
 EPH 1:11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. ROM 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! HEB 6:17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath. ROM 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
 JAM 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 1JO 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
 ACT 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. MAT 17:12 But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them. ACT 4:27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. JOH 19:11 Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin. PRO 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.
 ACT 15:18 Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 1SA 23:11 Will the men of Keilah deliver me up into his hand? will Saul come down, as thy servant hath heard? O Lord God of Israel, I beseech thee, tell thy servant. And the Lord said, He will come down. 12 Then said David, Will the men of Keilah deliver me and my men into the hand of Saul? And the Lord said, They will deliver thee up. MAT 11:21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.
 ROM 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
 1TI 5:21 I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. MAT 25:41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.
 ROM 9:22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: 23 And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory. EPH 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. PRO 16:4 The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
 2TI 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. JOH 13:18 I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.
 EPH 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own wilL. ROM 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. 2TI 1:9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began. 1TH 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ.
 ROM 9:11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) 13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. 16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. EPH 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself.
 EPH. 1:6,12 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
 1PE 1:2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. EPH 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. 2TH 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
 1TH 5:9 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. TIT 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
 ROM 8:30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. EPH 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. 2TH 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.
 1PE 1:5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
 JOH 17:9 I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine. ROM 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. JOH 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 10:26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. 8:47 He that is of God heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 1JO 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
 MAT 11:25 At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. 26 Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. ROM 9:17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. 18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. 21 Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? 22 What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. 2TI 2:19 Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. JUD 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. 1PE 2:8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.
 ROM 9:20 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! DEU 29:29 The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.
 2PE 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.
 EPH 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. ROM 11:33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!
 ROM 11:5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. 6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 2PE 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall. ROM 8:33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. LUK 10:20 Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
“Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.” (Psalm 119:12)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
“To God, only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen.” (Romans 16:27) and “heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28, 29)
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. He served as an ordained ruling elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church. He worked in and retired from a fortune five hundred company in corporate America after forty years. He runs two blogs sites and is the author of the book defending the Reformed Faith against attacks, titled: The Religion That Started in a Hat. Available at: www.TheReligionThatStartedInAHat.com
For more study:
Excellent web page with numerous links detailing the doctrine of Irresistible Grace and its implications: http://home.earthlink.net/~calvinist/irresistablegrace.html